News Saturday, JULY 08th, 2000

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Hello and a warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm David Vaughan, and I'll start with the headlines.

Those were the headlines. Now the news in more detail.

Temelin debate heats up

As the delivery of fuel for the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia continues, the Czech Environment Minister, Milos Kuzvart has put his weight behind calls from environmentalists for a delay before the plant is finally put into operation. Mr Kuzvart, who shares their doubts about the need for the plant, said that the government should wait until a long-expected law on the conditions for holding referendums is passed. One of the environmentalists' key demands is for a nationwide referendum to decide on Temelin's future. In the meantime environmental protests have continued around the plant. The government is expected to discuss Temelin next Wednesday, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Pavel Rychetsky, said a delay in putting the plant into operation could not be ruled out but remained very unlikely.

Austrian parliament approves compensation

By an overwhelming majority the lower house of the Austrian parliament has approved the setting up of a fund to compensate around 150 000 people who were taken to Austria as forced or slave labour during World War Two. The fund amounts to six billion Austrian Schillings from both state and private sources. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel thanked members of parliament for what he described as a liberating act that would also help Austria itself. Earlier this year Austria agreed after some hesitation to include Czech forced labourers among those to receive compensation.

Upbeat message on EU expansion

The Czech Deputy Prime Minister, Pavel Rychetsky, has delivered an upbeat message on the Czech Republic's preparations for European Union membership. He said that of all the countries aspiring to join the Union, the Czech Republic is set to come in for the most praise in the forthcoming EU report. He added that over the past twelve months the country has made enormous progress in bringing its legislation into line with EU standards. He also thanked opposition parties for letting this legislation pass through parliament, and said he was confident the Czech legal code would be fully EU compatible by the end of 2002.

In a separate development a Czech parliamentary delegation currently visiting France has sent home a rather more sober message. After a meeting with members of parliament from throughout the European Union, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Lubomir Zaoralek, said that expansion is currently only the third most important priority on the EU agenda. Priority number one, he said, is security and defence policy, followed by the reform of various institutions within the Union. He added that the EU still remains reluctant to pin itself down to specific dates for expansion.

Ombudsman debate continues

A close advisor to President Havel, Pavel Fiser, has accused Czech members of parliament of trying to politicize the process of choosing the Czech Republic's first ever ombudsman, intended as a guardian of civil rights in the country. On Tuesday MPs failed to choose from the candidates the President had put forward, and Mr Fiser has now claimed that they showed little interest in the qualities of the candidates themselves but only in narrow party political considerations. If no-one is chosen in a second round of voting, the entire process of putting forward candidates will have to be repeated, a prospect which MPs from across the political spectrum have said is increasingly likely.

Weather

And I'll end with a glance at the weather... and I'm afraid it's not good news. It will be a cold, wet weekend, with some heavy showers, and only in the east of the country will temperatures creep above 20 degrees Celsius. But it's not all bad news - by Monday we can expect the warmer weather to return, although there will still be showers.